Reviewed by Melissa Brus
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
This is not your usual romance novel. Yes, it is fiction. Yes, there is a romance. But the author goes into depths not found in most novels. It is a true character study. While the main characters are high school seniors, it is also not a YA novel. The book, like its main character Elliot Donahey, is in turn endearing and annoying, cleverly thought out and rash, articulately presented and caught up in slang. As such it took a bit longer to immerse completely into the story.
Elliot and Marco begin what looks like a fairy-tale romance in the summer before their senior year. When faced with the reality of high school, their fairy-tale is challenged by the realities of navigating the roles their peers and parents need them to maintain. Elliot is very much in his head. As an openly gay student, he his understandably hyper-vigilant in his town of Mercy, California, which he describes as where Americana goes to die. Elliot works at his family owned Dairy Queen and expresses himself in his drawings. He is also full of self-doubt and overwhelmed by his first foray into a relationship.
Marco Sforza is almost too good to be true. As part of a large and wealthy Italian family, Marco has a lot of pressure on him to maintain a stellar community reputation. He is the quarterback of the high school football team. Marco is also romantic to a fault, yet very naïve in his understanding of how his world will respond to their hometown hero coming out as gay, while still in high school. He is completely enamored of Elliot and wants the world to fall in line to support his dreams of a future with him.
Collins takes this young couple on quite a journey. They learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and each other. Some of the supporting cast comes across as stereotypes. There is particular venom in the characterization of the jock/cheerleader caste of the high school.
There are times where the flow feels bogged down in detail. There were moments of dialogue that didn’t feel quite genuine to the characters. But the overall story is riveting. This book caught me to the point that I could not put it down about half-way through. I found myself at midnight getting to the cliff-hanger we were warned about in the blurb and whispering a groaning “NO!” because now I needed to have the second volume. Luckily for us all it is already published and one-click away!